Selectman John Engel Q&A
Q: At every Board of Selectmen meeting, the board is bombarded with a lot of different requests and tasks ranging from departments like Parks and Recreations to legal issues. How do you plan on being proactive in terms of staying abreast of all issues and asking the right questions?
A: I was trained long ago as an Army officer that there is no substitute for walking around to be informed. I successfully applied this rule in business, managing a myriad of issues for a company of over 150 employees. Keeping abreast of issues is primarily a matter of being present, attending a broad range of meetings outside of Town Hall, being available to talk to residents, taking notes and getting back to people. You can't phone this job in. On Monday mornings I meet with Realtors discussing our real estate market, afternoons with the Board of Staying Put on senior issues, and Monday evenings I serve as a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals. I teach CCD for St. Aloysius and get a student's perspective. I meet with the Rotary Club and learn about issues there, and Fridays I attend the Advertiser's coffee to discuss the week's events. Every day I am in New Canaan getting information first-hand from merchants, Realtors and residents. It is any wonder that over 30 business owners in the downtown have written a letter of support for my candidacy? They know me; I am here, for over 32 years, participating and listening, and I am committed.
Q: As with many issues, people in town are split regarding cellphone signal and cell towers. Parents fear more cell towers in town would risk the health of children and others through radiation. Studies exist that support both sides of the issue saying the radiation is and is not a risk. On the other hand, some officials and supporters of cell towers say New Canaan needs better signal, especially in emergency situations like during the March 2010 Storm. Where do you stand on this issue?
A: People in town are not "split regarding cell phone signal." In a town-wide survey, over 90 percent of citizens of New Canaan responded that cellphone coverage is poor and that dropped calls are a major health and safety issue for our town. Forty-five people reported their 911 calls have been dropped. The town promised they were meeting with the carriers last year. What has been done? The recent false start at the West School location in which the Board of Selectmen approved an easement to access water company land only to find angry opposition at the Town Council meeting and subsequent withdrawal by Verizon is ample evidence that we do not have a process in place for identifying the best, safest sites and moving forward on them in a rational, scientific way. We are a town that prides itself on being safe and technologically advanced. Cellphone usage is a fact of life. We must agree as a community on the criteria for what makes a good site and put a process in place to make decisions, evaluate sites against objective criteria, and then invite carriers to help us move forward in New Canaan. I pledge my support to achieving this goal.